Exploring pandemic denial, set to a pop soundtrack

How to Watch

Tony Cokes premiered five new videos here and on our social media accounts (@theshedny) on Sundays from August 9 to September 6, 2020. Watch the complete series and learn more below.

About this commission

Tony Cokes’s video artwork uses quotes from writings by philosophers, musicians, politicians, and cultural figures. Placing these words on brightly colored, presentation-style backgrounds, Cokes then sets them to soundtracks of popular music from Drake to Morrissey. Through these juxtapositions, Cokes’s work invites us to engage with political ideas and shared social conditions, from the power of the media to celebrity culture.

For his Up Close commission, Cokes presents studies for a new body of work titled Of Lies & Liars. Alternate blue and red slides display quotations from journalist David Frum’s Atlantic article “This Is Trump’s Fault.” Cokes sets Frum’s words, which indict the current administration’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, to music by artists from the Postal Service to Lali Puna. The vignette-style videos are a return to Cokes’s ongoing exploration of evil in Western philosophical thought and its role in the structuring of society, this time in the context of the denials of scientific fact related to the pandemic. These video sketches will be released on this page and The Shed’s Instagram and YouTube accounts on Sundays at 6 pm EST from August 9 to September 6 and will serve as the foundation for a future work by the artist.

In the summer of 2019, a selection of Cokes’s work, including the new commission Before and After the Studio (2019), was presented in the exhibition Collision/Coalition at The Shed. The videos in this exhibition arranged appropriated materials including pop music and news articles in a confrontational collage to explore the relationship between the artist, the artist’s studio, and gentrification.


These videos include closed captioning. Audio transcripts will be available for each.

Creative Team

Portrait of T.Cokes
Courtesy The Getty Research Institute Los Angeles
Tony Cokes
Tony Cokes
Tony Cokes lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island, where he serves as professor in the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. Cokes’s analytical strategy is one of reframing and repositioning. His critiques are informed by contemporary cultural studies, poststructuralist theory, and popular texts; he quotes from sources ranging from Louis Althusser, David Bowie, Malcolm X, and Catherine Clément to Public Enemy, Morrissey, and William Burroughs. His works are often assemblages of archival footage, images from Hollywood films, text commentary, voiceover, and popular music.

Part of a series

Up Close Read more about “Up Close” All details for “Up Close”
New online artworks connecting us in this time apart

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The creation of new work at The Shed is generously supported by the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Commissioning Fund and the Shed Commissioners.
In The Works